<
>

Cano's offense, Mussina's finesse propel Yankees

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Mike Mussina felt much better as soon as
rookie Robinson Cano gave the New York Yankees an early lead. Just
like that, the right-hander wasn't as concerned about his tender
elbow.

Mussina pitched scoreless ball into the sixth inning, Cano lined
a three-run double in the first and the Yankees beat Bartolo Colon
again, defeating the Los Angeles Angels 4-2 in Game 1 of their AL
division series Tuesday night.

"When you're pitching on the road and you get to go to the
mound in the first inning with runs, that's a big deal," said
Mussina, who missed much of September because of his ailing elbow.
"This is only the third time I've been to the mound since I had
three weeks off. One was good and one was bad, so I didn't have any
idea what to expect."

Mariano Rivera saved it for the Yankees, who looked completely
fresh -- even after a cross-country trek on the heels of a
seven-game road trip to end the regular season. They traveled West
late Sunday, one day after clinching their eighth consecutive AL
East title with a victory over the rival Red Sox in Boston.

"We've been playing important games for the last month or so
now," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "It doesn't matter
whether we're home or on the road."

Darin Erstad's RBI single cut it to 4-2 in the ninth, only the
10th earned run Rivera has allowed in 71 career postseason
appearances. But the right-hander got pinch-hitter Casey Kotchman
on a popup for his first postseason save since blowing chances in
Games 4 and 5 against Boston in the 2004 AL championship series.

"I always have confidence," Rivera said. "It's big. It's good
to win."

New York produced all its offense with two outs and wasted
little time getting to Colon, a 21-game winner and leading
contender for the AL Cy Young Award.

The Angels' ace threw one ball in his first 13 pitches, but
allowed three straight two-out singles in the first to the middle
of New York's order -- Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and Hideki
Matsui -- prompting a visit from pitching coach Bud Black. Cano then
lined a double over Garret Anderson's head in left, clearing the
bases.

"I had two strikes. I wanted to take my chance," said Cano,
whose hit went to the opposite field. "It's something I've been
working on all year in the big leagues, to use the whole field."

Cano began the season with Triple-A Columbus, but was promoted
in May as general manager Brian Cashman shook things up to get the
Yankees out of an early-season skid.

After a sensational September that earned him AL rookie of the
month honors, Cano's clutch hit Tuesday helped the Yankees to their
first victory in a division series opener since they took Game 1
from the Angels in 2002 before losing the next three. New York lost
its first-round opener to Minnesota the past two seasons before
winning three straight to advance.

Colon retired Jeter and Alex Rodriguez on five total pitches to
start the game, then had two strikes against all four players who
got first-inning hits.

"He's as tough as any pitcher in baseball," Jeter said. "We
tried to score early and Robby had the big hit."

The burly right-hander, who allowed three homers to A-Rod on
April 26 in New York's 12-4 win, reached 48 pitches after only two
innings. He plunked Rodriguez in the back in the second after
allowing a two-out single to Jeter. Giambi followed Rodriguez with
an RBI double to right.

Bengie Molina hit a solo homer in the seventh for the Angels,
who captured their second straight AL West crown a week earlier and
won 14 of their final 16 games.

The Angels lost the opener of all three series when they won the
franchise's only World Series championship in 2002.

"Obviously, it wasn't by design then and it's not by design
now," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're going to do what we need
to do. We have to keep playing our game and we've obviously got to
do a little bit better job offensively. They jumped us early and
they pitched well after that."

Mussina, sidelined most of last month with inflammation near his
elbow, struck out four and gave up five hits in 5 2-3 innings. The
right-hander pitched three years to the day after allowing four
runs in four innings of a 9-6 loss to the Angels, who rallied from
a five-run deficit in Game 3 of their first-round series and went
on to win 3-1. The Angels advanced to beat San Francisco in the
World Series.

"It was great to see him come out and throw with the stuff he
had today," Cashman said. "Obviously, when he's right, he's very,
very difficult, so thankfully he was right on today."

Setup man Tom Gordon got four outs, and 39-year-old lefty Al
Leiter also helped out of the bullpen, striking out Erstad in the
seventh. Rivera worked the ninth to extend his major league record
to 33 postseason saves in 37 opportunities.

Jeter, playing two days after bruising his right knee on a
headfirst slide into second against Boston, reached base in his
21st straight division series game with a single in the second.

Both teams finished 95-67, with the Angels earning home-field
advantage after winning six of 10 meetings this season with New
York, in its 11th straight playoffs. The Angels are the only team
with a winning record (49-48) against the Yankees since Joe Torre
became New York's manager in 1996.

This Yankees team spent the fewest days in first place (20) of
any New York first-place club. The 1978 Yankees won the division
after spending only 23 days on top of the AL East. New York was in
sole possession of first place for nine days this year.

When Los Angeles got a pair of two-out hits of its own in the
second, the Angels couldn't capitalize when Adam Kennedy -- who
homered off Mussina in the 2002 division series -- flied out.

Starting with Kennedy's out, Mussina retired 12 of his final 14
batters.

Game notes
Mussina improved to 3-4 in postseason series openers. ...
The Yankees batted .233 with two outs and runners in scoring
position this year. ... Cano had 40 hits in September and batted
.381 with five homers and 16 RBI. ... The Angels' 95 wins this
year were the most by any of the organization's five division
champions. The club won 99 games as the AL wild-card team in 2002.